Damn it man, this game should’ve been ours. Solid start after a grueling game the night before, the second quarter is where we picked up and built a big lead, and it seemed halftime came just at the right time to give the fatigued legs a break. I expected the third to be much like the second, when the Raptors seemed to be rising above the tired legs, spreading the workload, and functioning fluidly on the backs of an inspired defense. Alas, the fatigue turned out to be of Hedo-levels, and the third was a nightmare of 38-14 proportions. Somewhere between the second and third was a 26 point swing (15 point Raptors lead turned into an 11 point deficit). Two-thirds of the fourth were a stalemate, and the Raptors made an unforeseen run late to cut it to two, but Augustin’s FTs sealed the deal.
Player of the game? As the Roll Call points out, it’s Jerryd Bayless without a doubt. He began the game hitting three threes which kickstarted the team, all in rhythm and flow of the game, and ended it with 14 in the fourth quarter to make a game of it late. Tremendous performance by Bayless who also had 6 assists and 4 steals. As his offense was getting the Raptors going early, Charlotte’s only plan seemed to be to attack the rim through DJ Augustin. With Gray starting ahead of Johnson, the help defense wasn’t as reactive so Charlotte had success in the beginning getting to the line on their drives. Casey tried to put James Johnson in a point-forward role on Augustin, which helped alleviate matters.
The Raptors shot 61% in the first quarter to Charlotte’s 28%, which rightfully translated to a 9 point lead, and would’ve been more if it weren’t for Charlotte attacking and getting fouled (11 trips to the FT line in the first). The second unit did its job as well, Forbes posted up Kemba Walker successfully, and Linas Kleiza went a manly 5-7FG for 11 points in the first half, making up for the scoring Barbosa used to provide at this point. The Raptors defense was, quite surprisingly, the most active it has been in a long time: every screen was fought through, the help was great, everyone had their arms waving, college-ball type stuff. Bayless and Forbes, who have a reputation of having the ball stuck in their hands, did a great job keeping the ball moving and the offense was ticking along smoothly. The only negative were the 11 first half turnovers, many of them unforced. Fortunately at that point, Charlotte was doing much of the same, literally turning it over where it was the easiest thing to run it back for points, which the Raptors did – 9 fastbreak points in the first half.
Over the span of the first and second quarter, the Raptors went on a 19-4 run which gave them a 15 point lead. Charlotte crawled back to 10 after some of those turnovers I talked about, and a very unfortuante sequence for Ed Davis where he missed two layups within 2 seconds. Bargnani wasn’t touching the ball much, other than throwing one down in Bismack Biyombo’s mug, and only had 10 shots, and DeRozan was relatively quiet in the first, so you’re thinking that despite closing the half on a bit of a whimper, the Raptors’ 10 point lead is well-protected since their two big guns haven’t got it going yet. Sure, we were shooting 59% at the half, and probably wouldn’t hit that rate again, but it’s not like Charlotte would shoot something crazy 80% either, right?
How wrong I was. Nothing plants the seed of doubt in your mind like a quick run following halftime, and fueled by silly offensive fouls that can best be attributed to fatigue and lack of focus, the Bobcats went on a 5-0 run to slash the lead to 5. That was it. Despite how well the Raptors had played, this was a five point game and both the momentum and the “crowd” against the visitors, and worst of all, the offensive failure was affecting the defense. The Raptors continued turning the ball over by committing offensive fouls and unforced errors, it also didn’t help that the officials started calling everything tight. A couple bad decisions by Bayless including hanging on to the ball too long, a back-to-back set of lazy offensive decisions leading to bad shots by James Johnson, was all the charge that Charlotte needed to light their offensive fires. They shot 12-15 FG (80%) in the third, with DJ Augustin burning Bayless right back for 12 points in the quarter. Victimized!
DeRozan in this quarter was 1-4 FG with 2 points and 2 turnovers, Bargnani was the exact same. The players who weren’t counted on for their consistent offense had gotten us this far (Kleiza, Bayless), and the players who we expected to carry the torch forward didn’t. End result is a 38-14 quarter which cost the game.
The lead entering the fourth was 12, and the lead with 3:40 left was 14 – 96-82. The Raptors didn’t quit this game, and Ed Davis, DeRozan, Forbes and Bayless shot the Raptors back in it, no doubt helped by a cameo from Magloire, and a pretty consistent night from Aaron Gray. The defense contested every Charlotte shot at the rim and the offensive rebounds were buying the Raptors possessions; when Jerryd Bayless hit his massive three with 11 seconds left to cut it to a two point game, this came down to free throws, which DJ Augustin made both of. He who laughs last, laughs the longest.
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